Wide-angle view of the cabin John & Charolette Sweet
HCR 4, Box 305
Mustoe, VA 24468
Phone: 540-468-2222
FAX: 540-468-2223
E-mail: jrs@johnrsweet.com

January 2000

Greetings and Joy of the Season!

And Goodbye 20TH Century! (though it doesn’t really end until December 31, 2000).

We had this letter well underway by Christmas but events have conspired to delay it for a month. The primary delaying factor was that John’s mother took a turn for the worse and we have all been on the hop trying to deal with it. As late as October she was able to get along with help with her meals, housekeeping, some personal care and occasional emergency help. But the fall has seen a steeper decline and since November she has needed round-the-clock attention. We are truly blessed with wonderful help. Jeanne Reedy, who is not a nurse but is trained in health care for the elderly, is our rod and our staff who keeps her medications in order and takes charge of some eight other helpers. Mary talks about needing to go to a nursing home, but we have assured her she could not improve the ratio she has now. We have been doing most of the night duty, which throws everything else out of kilter. John had the audacity to complicate things further by catching the flu in early January. It hit hard and has been slow to leave. He is still operating on reduced energy.

1999 has been a very stimulating year. The addition of extended family (Kathy and Brad) to our daily lives has been enlightening for both of us. Neither of us have lived with two generations of family in the same town until now. Happily, Char’s long held opinion that grown-up children are a joy remains intact. Both business and family life have benefitted, with Kathy and Brad taking on all the shipping and many other aspects of running the business as well as toting that barge and lifting that bale around house and farm.

And a jolly good thing, too, because things have really been humming around here. Winter was fairly quiescent, mostly spent with the above mentioned apprenticeship program, worrying about whether the leak in the (newly reconstructed) dam was significant (so far it doesn’t seem to be, though it is persistent.) and trips to the Valley gynecologists for Char where she discovered she had to have a hysterectomy. This also occasioned up close and personal contact with Health Insurance and it’s amazing how much time that can consume! It has been another Learning Experience — 1999 has been rich in those. Things began to heat up in the spring, starting with the hysterectomy in May concomitant with starting the dreaded/desired CABIN PROJECT. Speaking of Learning Experiences....

Cleo We started out to replace the kitchen/bathroom part of the cabin and increase the size two feet in one direction and four feet in the other, making the roof line conform to the existing one. This was predicated on the assumption that the part that was left was in okay shape. We knew there was no foundation under it and we would have to level up it as much as possible and supply a foundation. Well — we found that the floor joists had not been resting on a rock at each corner as we had thought but had been just laid on the ground — and had, predictably, turned to powder. The walls had no studs — they were built of board and batten held together with three horizontal stringers. The chimney and a tongue-and-groove floor were holding the thing together and the chimney rested on a pile of rocks covered with a 2" slab of concrete. So instead of making it level, we leveled it. We stuck to the general plan of the remodeling but it seemed that each phase of the project brought on more (and more elaborate) changes until what we have now has little resemblance to the original. And decisions! We knew there would be a lot of them but MERDE!!   We have constructed an 1150 sq. ft., one-bedroom house attached to an existing 16' x 16' room (added to the original cabin in 1985) with an 11' cathedral ceiling. Every day brings a new Learning Experience! It is going to be very nice and we now refer to it as the Office and Conference Center (when we’re not calling it the Taj Mahal). The “cabin” will house the business office, Char’s weaving studio and we will have guest accommodations, a place for projects that can be left in progress and an extra kitchen (and it’s amazing how handy that is from time to time.) You must come see us and try it out! Expected time of completion varies with who you ask and what day — estimates run between March 2000 and January 2001.

The “somewhat larger backhoe” mentioned as “desired” in last year’s letter has become a reality. Another addition to the mechanical fleet is a 1979 Ford dump truck, shown beyond the cabin in the photo at top. Both arrived just in time to be of yeoman service in the early stages of the cabin project. John hauled off the debris, leveled the site, and dug all the footer trenches himself. He has wanted a dump truck for years but had difficulty justifying the cost. While that is still true to a degree, it is astounding how often it has been called on, here and at several neighbors. Over fifty loads have been hauled in its first season.

For more pictures of the cabin project please visit our cabin page. At this point that is about the only thing on our website. We hope to use it for more general communication whenever things slow down enough for John to spend some time on it. We also have a business website for John R. Sweet Co., which is equally in need of attention.

At about the point Char was fully recovered from the surgery in May, word came that her brother-in-law was in the terminal stage of pancreatic cancer. So she made a flying trip to the west coast and stayed almost a month. (Incidentally, if you are 62+ and have flying to do check out US Airways’ Golden Opportunity plan. Two round trips for about half the price of one.) It was an unhappy reason for the trip but it was wonderful to spend some time with family not seen nearly often enough.

Our domestic animal census is at 12 currently — four cows, two horses, three cats, and three turtles. This is pretty much unchanged from recent years. We are surrounded by wild birds and animals too, of course. Most are pretty common creatures, often found even in suburban back yards, but we especially relish the less usual ones. We were visited regularly by a flock of wild turkeys numbering 20 or more. A great blue heron makes occasional visits to the pond and a belted kingfisher is there most of the time. We hear pileated woodpeckers hammering in the woods and see them now and again. We hear owls call in the evening and ruffed grouse drumming in season. Redtail hawks nested near the house last summer and a bald eagle may be glimpsed soaring over the river surveying the fish.

Come visit sometime and help us enjoy our woods and wildlife.

Char & John